CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Horrible shootings at schools and theaters naturally grab attention and sear into the public memory. But thousands of people are killed or wounded by guns in this country every year in circumstances that are not so widely understood or observed.
Hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths of children with gunshot wounds are increasing. More than 7,500 U.S. children go to hospitals with gunshot wounds a year, and more than 500 die, researchers reported at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in October.
Dr. Arin Madenci of the University of Michigan Medical School and Dr. Christopher Weldon of Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that handguns inflicted the majority of wounds, followed by shotguns and hunting rifles.
They also found that households where guns were present tend to have more gunshot wounds.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the safest approach for children is to keep no guns at home.
Another team of researchers studied 10 years worth of suicide data and determined a simple truth -- fewer guns mean fewer suicides.
Economics professor Alex Tabarrok and graduate student Justin Briggs at George Mason University noted in Slate magazine that in a typical year suicides outnumber homicides by 3 to 1. For every 1 percent increase in gun ownership rates, they measured an increase in suicides between 0.5 and 0.9 percent. They found the relationship even when they controlled for other factors, such as mental illness.
Guns are quick and deadly, so if someone acts on an impulse to commit suicide and a gun is handy, that person is more likely to die than if the gun is not available. Suicides are not inevitable, they write.
West Virginia ranks fifth in the country in the rate of suicide by firearm, and seventh in overall firearm deaths, according to a report from the Center for American Progress.
All of these findings reinforce the need for states and the nation to keep guns out of the hands of people who cannot be trusted with them. Even the simplest of solutions, such as Sen. Joe Manchin's proposal to extend background checks to those trying to buy weapons at gun shows and online, meet opposition from a loud minority. But America's health and safety demand better.